Wa-Hi outdoor facilities are old and inadequate

By on Monday, March 27th, 2023 in Columbia Basin News Columbia Basin Top Stories

WALLA WALLA – Walla Walla High School Athletic Director Chris Ferenz along with several coaches and parents last week unveiled a report to school board members detailing inadequacies at most of Walla Walla Public Schools’ outdoor athletic and activity facilities. The study, which began in 2019, found most of the district’s exterior athletic components are in need of substantial renovations or improvements in order to maintain safe and adequate facilities.

The report noted several issues, which included, Walla Walla High School is the only school in the Mid-Columbia Conference without a multi-sport, turfed stadium where football, soccer, track, marching band, physical education classes and other community athletes can practice and perform. The district pays $100,000 per year to access Borleske for four to five evening football games. Visiting teams dress on their buses or in batting cages because the locker rooms were condemned over 40 years ago. Also, baseball improvements to the stadium over the years have made it even more problematic for football players and spectators to use.

Wa-Hi’s tennis courts are more than 60 years old and are on the verge of being unplayable as the substructure has completely failed. Despite the board investing nearly $100,000 in a new topcoat surface on the high school courts three years ago, large cracks as wide as a tennis ball in some areas have already opened across all five courts. Garrison Middle School tennis courts, at 50 years old, are in a similar state.

The report also mentioned that without access to artificial turf fields, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules will require home playoff games in sports such as soccer and football be played in the Tri-cities rather than in Walla Walla.

Furthermore, the report said portable toilets often double as changing rooms as outdoor facilities and lockers do not exist on any site within Walla Walla Public Schools. Superintendent Wade Smith said while the 2018 bond focused on classrooms and other indoor facility needs across the district, the need to address outdoor amenities did not go away.

The next step is to develop an outdoor athletic and activity facility advisory committee of parents, community members and stakeholders. This committee will review, research and prioritize needs; identify costs to make improvements; investigate and propose funding options; and provide a committee progress update to the district in April with a final recommendation in May.